Web Design and Development
When the average web developer tests a website for cross-browser compatibility, the main focus is on making sure that a site looks the same in all browsers. However, an equally important component is that the site behaves the same as well. Otherwise, some visitors may not be able to use or browse your site.
Last week, this is exactly what happened with Google Webmaster Tools.1 A new update was rolled out before it was fully tested for cross-browser compatibility. What resulted was an inability for visitors using Firefox 3.6 to navigate the website because, for them, the navigation links no longer worked.2
Almost immediately, Google's Webmaster Central help forums were ablaze with new threads devoted to the issue, and irritated users were venting their frustrations:
When I go into webmaster tools, and then I click on the links in the left, a horizontal scroll bar obscures the links. It looks really stupid and makes me wonder if anybody at Google is paying attention.
it isn't only a problem of look an feel, the links are useless!
My confidence in Google is at an all time low.
Finally, after a full week had passed, Google resolved the issue, and full functionality was restored yesterday.
As an industry leader, Google has the freedom to make cross-browser compatibility mistakes because it is unlikely that it will lose its users. However, your visitors are probably less forgiving. And if your website is unusable, they may never return, thus making such a mistake very costly. Consequently, full cross-browser compatibility testing is very important.3
Of course, some mistakes are unavoidable. There are many web browsers, platforms, and versions, and each of them have their own set of bugs, some of which have yet to be identified. For these compatibility errors, make sure that your visitors have some way to contact you and give feedback.4
Here are some tools to help you test your website across different browsers, versions, and platforms.
Validate Your Markup Using W3C Tools
The first step to cross-browser compatibility is valid HTML and CSS.
View Your Website In Multiple Browsers
The following tools are useful if you don't have access to machines running other platforms and/or you don't want to install multiple browser versions on your own systems.
Know of any other good tools that aren't listed?